by Steve Geller, email@example.com,posted Sep 19 2014 11:54AM
Hallelujah! Conference play begins for most teams this week and the headline game has the Gators chomping their way into Tuscaloosa looking to take a bite out of the Tide. Three teams are idle as Ole Miss, Tennessee and Kentucky are off.
Time to go Inside the SEC…
Troy at #13 Georgia - 11am kickoff
Once upon a time Troy could give SEC teams some trouble but this is not one of those years. The Trojans are 0-3 and just haven't been very competitive. Meanwhile, Georgia is once again fighting against the notion that its chances to win a national title are over after three weeks. I expect UGA to take out the frustrations of their loss to South Carolina on poor Troy.
#6 Texas A&M at SMU – 2:30pm kickoff
The Aggies didn't exactly look like world beaters in their victory over Rice last week, but SMU is ten times worse than the Owls. The Mustangs have scored a total of 6 points in 2 games and don't stand a chance versus A&M's high powered offense. TAMU could score 50 by halftime
Florida at #3 Alabama - 2:30pm kickoff
It's really not out of the question that Florida could leave Tuscaloosa with a victory. This will be the best defense the Crimson Tide have faced all season, plus the Gators also have a good QB in Jeff Driskel that will try to take advantage of Alabama's thin secondary. Blake Sims may worry some as the Tide's signal caller but he has proved he is the best man for the job. If all else fails, Bama still has its ground attack. This will be a fun one considering the history between these two schools.
Indiana at #18 Missouri - 3pm kickoff
Mizzou is a very quiet 3-0 with impressive wins at Toledo and vs. UCF. The Tigers are getting solid play from quarterback Maty Mauk and are better than they get credit for on the offensive and defensive lines. Indiana can score, but their defense has yet to prove it can slow down a decent offense. Expect Missouri to easily win by double-digits.
Mississippi State at #8 LSU - 6pm kickoff
Well, look at what we have here! Finally, a real test for both teams and this one will challenge the Florida/Alabama match-up for the best game of the week. LSU currently has the top defense in the SEC, which will be needed to slow down Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott. He along with his slew of wide receivers, will be difficult for the Tigers to stop. The Bulldogs also have a talented defense led by d-lineman Preston Smith, who will be key to slowing down the Bayou Bengals ground attack. LSU has the better defense and is at home so I'll give them a slight edge.
Northern Illinois at Arkansas - 6pm kickoff
It's hard to believe that Arkansas is averaging over 47 points per game through 3 games considering they averaged 20 points a year ago. The Razorbacks have one of the best rushing attacks in the SEC led by Alex Collins and Quarterback Brandon Allen is also a threat through the air. However, the Huskies do have the second best defense in the MAC, combined with their #1 ranked offense. Northern Illinois will make it interesting early, but the Hogs have too many different weapons on offense.
#14 South Carolina at Vanderbilt – 6:30pm kickoff
There is obviously a long way to go, but the Gamecocks are back in SEC East race thanks to last week's win over Georgia. Now, the South Carolina hits the road for the first time to play a Vanderbilt team that is off to a troubling 1-2 start. The Commodores finally showed some life on offense last week but still only had 310 total yards against a UMass team that gave up 511 to Boston College and 474 to Colorado. This looks to be an easy win for South Carolina.
SIT EM Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo
While the St. Louis Rams offense is abysmal, their defense is lethal. Tony Romo will be under plenty of duress in the Edward Jones Dome Sunday. More pressure means more chances for interceptions and we all know those are Romo's specialty. BOOM! If you are desperado for a fill in QB, Ryan Tannehill is a decent play going up against KC this week.
San Francisco 49ers Running Back Frank Gore
I know it's hard to sit a guy like Gore but the 31-year-old is up aginst a pretty stout defense this week in the Arizona. Last year the Desert Birds allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. Despite the loss of Darnell Dockett and Daryl Washington, they have remained tough against the run through the first two games giving up just 133 yards and one touchdown. Add to that, in his past four meetings against the Cards, Gore scored just once and was held to less than 70 rushing yards in three of those contests.
Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver Markus Wheaton
Wheaton has been a nice complement to Antonio Brown with 11 receptions and 157 total yards so far, but Pitt is up against the Panthers defense this week. Carolina's front seven is likely to give Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger fits and will limit the upside of all of their offensive players. The Panthers are allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers.
Washington Redskins Quarterback Kirk Cousins
Last week Robert Griffin III was on my sit list, and he wound up getting hurt. Now his back-up Kirk Cousins is a start for me? What gives? Well, Cousins has looked like the better QB all along and RG3's injury might be the best thing for the Redskins as a team. Washington has a tough NFC East rivalry match-up this week with the Eagles, but Philly's defense is soft. Look for Cousins and WR Desean Jackson to hook upon some big plays as D-Jax is facing his former team for the first time, and the divorce wasn't pretty!
Cincinnati Bengals Wide Receiver Mohamed Sanu
With AJ Green dealing with an injury, Sanu has a ton of upside. While he's yet to prove himself as a worthy #2 receiver, he sure looks the part at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds. If Green misses significant time, Sanu will be a serviceable play, and Cincy could stand to develop another receiving threat to complement AJ whenever he returns.
Houston Texans Defense
The Texans are my PLAY OF THE WEEK! Eli Turnover…I mean, Eli Manning is on the menu for JJ Watt and the rest of the Houston D. That means big points off takeaways and sacks. Eli has thrown 21 TD passes in his last 18 games and… wait for it… 31 INTS. YOWSER! The G-men look terrible and uncomfortable thus far in their new offensive coordinator's scheme.
The Saints look for their first victory of the 2014 NFL season Sunday when they host the Minnesota Vikings. There's no place like home, as the Black & Gold's last defeat in the Superdome came on December 30th, 2012 to the Carolina Panthers.
The Vikings come into this match-up with a record of 1-1, having won week 1 in St. Louis, but then got crushed last Sunday in their home opener against New England. Minnesota's offense is averaging 20.5 points per contest, while the defense is giving up 18 points per game. Being just two games into the season though, it's kind of hard to really rely on those averages.
First year head coach Mike Zimmer is trying to get this franchise back on track after finishing 5-10-1 in 2013. Zimmer helped turn the Bengals defense around and will now try and duplicate that success in Minnesota after the Vikings finished giving up a league-worst 30 points a game a year ago.
The defensive line has gotten a makeover with the team deciding to let go of aging Pro Bowlers Jared Allen and Kevin Williams. They did re-sign defensive end Everson Griffen and added former Giants nose tackle Linval Jones in free agency to play alongside defensive tackle Shariff Floyd, whose rookie year was derailed by a knee injury.
The Vikes used a 1st round draft pick on linebacker Anthony Barr out of UCLA, and he has the type of athletic ability that could be a huge factor on game day. Meanwhile, two former 1st round selections, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Harrison smith may be stars in the making.
Over on the offense side of the ball, running back Adrian Peterson is the team's workhorse, but will not be a factor in this game and possibly the rest of the season. The Vikings have placed him on the NFL's exempt/commissioner's permission list until his child abuse case is resolved, which bars AP from all team activities. It's a huge blow for the team since Peterson has scored double-digit touchdowns every season he's played and has averaged 5 yards per carry for his career.
The other offensive weapons include wide receivers Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson as well as tight end Kyle Rudolph. Patterson is a young, rising star and has been used in the passing and rushing attack.
Quarterback is the big question for this team. They would probably take Brett Favre back right now if he wanted to play. Minny re-signed veteran signal caller Matt Cassel, and moved up in the draft to select Teddy Bridgewater out of Louisville with the final pick in the 1st round. Also still clinging on for dear life on the roster is former 1st round pick Christian Ponder. Cassel currently has the gig as the starter, but Bridgewater is obviously the future and will likely take over at some point this season when Minnesota struggles. And struggle they shall.
At best, the Vikings were an 8-8 team with Peterson, and now look like a 3-13 ballclub. Obviously at 0-2 though, the Saints can't afford to sleep on anyone. Every week is a must win, but this really is a MUST WIN for New Orleans. Earning a victory here gets the momentum going in a positive direction for the Black & Gold and I fully expect that to be the case. If I'm wrong… I give up on this prediction stuff. Frustrations and having a goose on the season should get resolved for New Orleans.
For the 2nd straight week former Saint Darren Sproles rescued his new team from the clutches of defeat. The Philadelphia Eagles made history by becoming the first team in NFL history to overcome 14 point deficits in each of the first two games of the season. The short in size, but large in talent running back was a HUGE factor. Sproles racked up 178 yards receiving/rushing and scored to help propel Philly to a 30-27 comeback win over the Colts in Indy.
Saints fans sigh. RT @adnanESPN: Darren Sproles 148 yards after the catch are the 2nd most by any player in the last 3 years #MNF
When Sproles was traded to Philadelphia for a 5th round draft pick, most of the Who Dat Nation groaned in disapproval. Why would New Orleans get rid of a guy who was responsible for 70+ receptions a season? A player who was speedy, shifty and had a knack for making players miss. Making room under the salary cap was a big reason while concern over Sproles age was another. The 5'6" 190 lb back turned 31 in June.
Yeah, I understood those two concerns, but what got me is that Sproles is a Drew Brees "guy". The Saints QB was responsible for the RB signing in New Orleans as a free agent in 2011. The two played together in San Diego and had a great relationship, even working out together in the offseason. "Sprolesy", as Brees calls him, flourished in Sean Payton's offense and parting with his production seems even more damaging now. The Saints are 0-2 and to make matter worse, RB Mark Ingram is said to have a broken hand and could miss a month of action.
Meanwhile, Sproles seems to be outrunning father time...
UCF at #20 Missouri - 11am kickoff
Boom! Right off the bat, this one could actually be the game of the week in the SEC. Central Florida lost to Penn State in its opener and hasn't played since, while Mizzou did a decent job of beating Toledo last week. The Tigers, however, have not looked sharp on defense. If the Knights can slow down the Missouri offense just a little, this may be an upset.
Massachusetts at Vanderbilt - 11am kickoff
Vandy is in bad shape. Not only did they decide to switch both offensive and defensive systems this year, but also have been splitting practice reps 3 ways between their quarterbacks. BLAH! UMass almost knocked off Colorado last week and the Buffs are a way better team than the Commodores right now. From the looks of things, Vanderbilt won't win an in-conference game this year.
Arkansas at Texas Tech - 2:30pm kickoff
The Hogs took out a ton of frustration on Nicholls State last week, but get back to some real competition now. Lucky for Arkansas, Tech's defense needs help. This is a winnable game for the Razorbacks, but it's just too hard to give them the benefit of the doubt on the road right now.
#6 Georgia at #24 South Carolina - 2:30pm kickoff
Boy, did Georgia dismantle Clemson in their opener, showcasing a potent ground attack that makes the Bulldogs look as if it they'll be mighty tough in the SEC. Meanwhile South Carolina got smoked at home by the Aggies in their opener, and then earned an unimpressive victory over East Carolina. A loss here and the Gamecocks would likely be out of contention to win the division. With all their problems on defense, I just don't see how USC beats UGA.
LA-Lafayette at #14 Ole Miss - 3pm kickoff
LA Tech took down the Ragin Cajuns last week and things will get a whole lot harder for ULL at Ole Miss. The Rebels just stomped Vanderbilt and right now ULL is pretty much on the same level as the Commodores. Sorry Cajun Nation, this one won't be close.
Mississippi State at South Alabama - 3pm kickoff
UAB just shredded Mississippi State's defense for 548 yards, but the Bulldogs did manage to pull out the victory. That will surely make State a little uncomfortable heading into South Alabama this week. The Jaguars won their opener at Kent State, but just doesn't have the firepower the Blazers possess to have a chance at knocking off MSU.
Southern Miss at #3 Alabama - 5pm kickoff
There are still more questions than answers regarding Alabama this season. Blake Sims leads the quarterback race, and if Jacob Coker does not make some improvement, Sims will remain the starter. The Golden Eagles have only won two out of their last 26 games and won't be able to slow down T.J. Yeldon or Amari Cooper. Once again the Tide rolls to victory.
UL Monroe at #10 LSU - 6pm kickoff
This isn't a complete cream puff game for LSU, as the Warhawks are 2-0 on the year with wins over Wake Forest and Idaho. But the Tigers are 11-0 against in-state teams under head coach Les Miles. It will be 12-0 after this one.
Kentucky at Florida - 6:30pm kickoff
Well, the Wildcats were feeling good about their offense after the opener, but then put up just 20 points on Ohio last week. Meanwhile Florida comes into this game limping due to some injuries at tight end and along the offensive line. The Gators have much more talent than Kentucky though, and UK is unlikely to keep this game close.
Tennessee at #4 Oklahoma - 7pm kickoff
Tennessee believes it is on the right track and Oklahoma is going to let the Volunteers whether or not that is true. The Sooners have plowed through Tulsa and Louisiana Tech so far, while the Vols opened with a solid win over Utah State, then earned a ho-hum victory over Arkansas State. To have a chance Tennessee will have to slow down a Sooners offense that is averaging 50 points per game. While I think the Volunteers are heading in the right direction, winning in Norman, Oklahoma is just too much to ask.
Rice at #7 Texas A&M - 8pm kickoff
The poor Owls have a brutal two game stretch to open the season. They lost at Notre Dame and now head to Texas A&M. The Aggies have been perhaps the most impressive offensive team in the nation, boasting an outstanding offensive line, a group of quality running backs and wide receivers as well as a quarterback in Kenny Hill that is quickly making A&M fans say "Johnny Football who?" This will not be close.
Washington Redskins Quarterback Robert Griffin III
Who is this quarterback in a Redskins uniform, and what have they done with RG3? Yeah, he completed 78% of his passes in week 1, but was constantly checking down instead of airing it out. It's like he doesn't trust himself and also looks hesitant to pull the ball down and run. Washington is at home against Jacksonville but the Jags defensive front is underrated. If I were you I'd look elsewhere for a signal caller. I don't think I'd even own RG3 at this point.
Atlanta Falcons Running Back Steven Jackson
Sure, Jackson is still a physical specimen, but at 31 years old isn't a reliable RB1 or 2 to turn to week in and week out. Jacquizz Rodgers, Devonta Freeman and Antoine Smith will all eat into Jackson's carries as well. None are capable to enough to take the reins and be the workhorse, making the Falcons RB situation a pain in the ass for us fantasy owners. Also a big negative is that the Dirty Birds leave the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome in week 2 and are in Cincinnati to face the Bengals on Sunday. Cincy was the 5th best defense against the run last year.
San Diego Chargers Tight End Antonio Gates
This breakdown could be summed up in 3 words… LEGION OF BOOM. I recommend sitting all your Chargers as the defending champs comes to Diego this week. Seattle's defense looks just as lethal as it did last year as they shut down the Packers to open the year and will look to eat up the one dimensional Bolts offense on Sunday. Gates will not duplicate his week 1 performance of 6 catches for 81 yards.
Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback Andy Dalton
The Red Rifle started out the season with a solid outing throwing for 301 yards but managed just 1 TD. After watching what Brees and the Saints offense did to the Falcons, Dalton is chomping at the bit to carve up some Dirty Bird this week. To add to Dalton's delight; in the last 5 games in Paul Brown Stadium against NFC teams, he has thrown 11 touchdowns. I expect he and RB Giovanni Bernard to have big days in the match-up.
Cleveland Browns Running Back Terrance West
I have long trolled the Saints run defense in fantasy football. Whoever they are facing, I tend to say start the opposition's running back, and this week is no different. With Ben Tate out with a knee injury Terrance West will handle the bulk of the carries. He managed to gain 100 yards on 16 carries a week ago in Pittsburg and should put up solid numbers against a New Orleans D that looked awful in Atlanta. The Browns offensive line is also very underrated. The only thing that scares me is Isaiah Crowell vulturing away TDs with some goal line carries.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense
If you're in a pinch this week and the Bucs happen to be on your league's waiver wire, I feel they are a great play going up against a Rams team that is hurting on offense. Quarterback Sam Bradford is out for the year after he tore his ACL again and St Louis has veteran Shaun Hill under center in his place. Hill was so bad last week against the Viking that he got yanked from the game in favor of 2nd year signal caller Austin Davis. Jeff Fisher says Hill is still his guy, but it doesn't matter. Stack the box versus the Rams rushing attack and dare them to throw it. Plus, this game is in Tampa so the Dome coddled Rams will be wilting in the heat.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's job could be in jeopardy as more layers of the Ray Rice domestic violence saga unravel. While Goodell says neither he nor anyone else at the league office saw the video of Rice hitting his then-fiancee prior to the footage going viral on Monday, a law enforcement official told the AP that he did in fact send a tape an NFL executive in April.
Now, former FBI director Robert Mueller will conduct a probe into how the NFL handled the evidence, and will be overseen by team owners John Mara of the New York Giants and Art Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hmmm, that doesn't sound like an outside investigation to me.
There is no love lost for the Commish with the Who Dat Nation, who saw their team punished for an alleged bounty program that we still haven't seen real evidence for, and two former members of the Black & Gold really laid into Goodell with news who might have known about the aforementioned video footage after all.
Jonathan Vilma's name was drug through the mud during "Bounty Gate" and was initially suspended an entire season. He decided to taunt Goodell on twitter after hearing the latest news:
I know firsthand the commissioner will go to great lengths to "gather all evidence" but he purposely did not in this instance. Appalling.
The opening of the season wound up being a huge letdown in Who Dat land as the Saints squandered a 10-point halftime lead, couldn't pressure Matty Ice and forgot how to tackle in their 37-34 overtime loss in Atlanta. No time to wallow in misery though, as the Black & Gold must pack their bags for another road trip this weekend to the "Dawg Pound" to face the Browns.
Cleveland also dropped their opener, and in heart-stomping style. The Steelers jumped out to a 27-3 lead at the half, but the Browns showed heart; fighting all the way back to tie the game in the 4th quarter. Their effort was for naught, though, as Cleveland couldn't climb all the way atop victory mountain in Pitt. The Steelers managed to put a game winning drive together with 47 seconds left to play, ending with kicker Shaun Suisham drilling a 40 yard field goal as time expired.
What we get now are two teams desperately trying not to fall to 0-2 on the year, since the history tells us that ballclub will have just a 12% chance at making the postseason.
The drama of the Browns' season began with the NFL draft, and the plot unfolded just like the movie "Draft Day," which was centered around the Cleveland franchise. After picking cornerback Justin Gilbert with the 8th overall selection, the Browns decided to make a move with the 2nd first round selection and traded up 4 spots to pick #22 to grab quarterback Johnny Manziel.
The kid known as "Johnny Football" dazzled during his 2 years in college, but there were and still are questions about if his game will translate to the pros. Also a big question is Manziel's off the field activities, since it seems he never misses a party.
However, the story line to this next game won't likely include Johnny Football since he is Johnny Backup to starter Brian Hoyer. The two battled it out during training camp and the preseason for the Browns starting QB gig and head coach Mike Pettine has proclaimed Hoyer the victor… for now.
Speaking of Pettine, he was hired by the Browns toward the end of January as the franchise underwent yet another house cleaning after going 4-12 last year, dropping their final 7 games to close out the season.
Pettine has a defensive background as he was the Jets D-coordinator from 2009-2012 and then for the Bills in 2013. During his time in the New York, he was considered head coach Rex Ryan's right-hand man.
The Browns 2014 debut on D was similar to the Saints. They were gashed for a total of 490 yards, surrendering 4 yards per carry on the ground while allowing Big Ben Roethlisberger to throw for 365 yards passing with 1 TD and 1 INT.
The offensive side of the ball for the Browns came alive after halftime in Pittsburgh and you have to wonder how much more dangerous they could be with top receiver Josh Gordon in the lineup. He is currently serving a year long suspension for violating the leagues substance abuse policy AGAIN, but his reinstatement is still possible though highly unlikely for this week's matchup.
Andrew Hawkins led Cleveland in receiving, catching 8 of 10 balls for 87 yards. Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron had just 2 catches for 45 yards and went down in the 3rd quarter in week 1 with a shoulder injury. Right now he's considered day to day but something to watch, as it's an aggravation of the sprained AC joint he suffered in training camp.
(Cleveland's Cameron Jordan and New Orleans' Cameron Jordan on "The League")
Running back Ben Tate also got banged up and was forced to leave the contest with a knee injury. No update has been given on Tate yet, but Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell picked up the slack in his absence. Both averaged over 6 yards per carry while West totaled 100 yards rushing and Crowell managed to fins the endzone twice.
These two teams have met twice during the Sean Payton era and each time the home team has lost. While I think the Browns rushing attack is definitely something to be concerned over, I see the Saints coming out on top in this one. New Orleans has the better QB, better talent all-around and better leadership on the field and on the sidelines. Weather should not be an issue either as the forecast is calling for a high of 64 with a mere 10% chance of rain.
I gotta be honest with you folks, the second week of play in the nation's best conference is pretty lame. There aren't any must-see games and there is only one matchup within the conference. Oh well; just one team is idle this week and that is Georgia.
Let's go Inside the SEC!
FLORIDA ATLANTIC at ALABAMA – 11am kickoff
Florida Atlantic sure didn't start off the season like they would have liked, dropping their opener to Nebraska 55-7. It gets worse when you see they gave up 498 yards on the ground! Bama is licking their chops as they were able to rack up 288 rushing yards and 5.8 per carry against West Virginia. The Owls are in Trouble… notice that's with a capital T!
MISSOURI at TOLEDO – 11am kickoff
Mizzou's showed little enthusiasm in their opener against South Dakota State, and if the Tigers repeat that effort against Toledo, this could turn out to be a fairly big upset. The Rockets romped over New Hampshire in its opener, but I just don't think they have the firepower on defense to contain Missouri QB Maty Mauk.
ARKANSAS STATE at TENNESSEE – 11am kickoff
The Vols turned some heads with a 38-7 dominating win over a decent Utah State team. Now, can they follow that up with a victory against a Red Wolves team that isn't bad? Junior quarterback Fredi Knighten was recruited to Arkansas State by then-head coach Gus Malzahn to run the Red Wolves' up-tempo offense. Knighten is a true dual threat who threw for 200-plus and rushed for 100-plus in the Red Wolves opener. Tennessee shouldn't be challenged more than the first quarter though.
UAB at MISSISSIPPI STATE – 1pm kickoff
Don't look now, but UAB tore apart Troy in its opener and suddenly this game doesn't look like a walk in the park for MSU anymore. The Blazers rushing attack racked up 338 yards last week, but shouldn't come close to duplicating that against a Bulldogs defensive front this is strong up the middle. This game will tell UAB whether its defense really was as good as Troy made it look, or if it was an optical illusion. State will win but may be a bit tricky.
OHIO at KENTUCKY – 2:30pm kickoff
Ohio managed to slip by Kent State 17-14 in their opener, while Kentucky demolished UT-Martin. Now the Bobcats are definitely a better team than UT-Martin, but not good enough to get by UK. The Wildcats will have more trouble with Ohio then it will like, but should pull away in the end for a double-digit victory.
NICHOLLS STATE at ARKANSAS – 3pm kickoff
The Colonels got blown out by Airforce in their opener and are outmatched here. Arkansas should notch one in the win column this week after falling flat at Auburn in the second half. The Hogs have lost 10 straight games now under head coach Bret Bielema. The streak won't get to 11.
EASTERN MICHIGAN at FLORIDA – 3pm kickoff
Its Florida's first action of the year, as they were rained out last week. This one could get ugly as Eastern Michigan has been one of the worst Division-IA programs since practically forever. The only question is how the Gators will debut, since this is the first game of the year for them versus Eastern Michigan's second game. The likely answer is that it won't matter.
OLE MISS at VANDERBILT (at LP Field in Nashville) – 3:30pm kickoff
Vandy's opening loss to Temple wasn't just a loss, it was a complete self-destruction and immediately called into question new head coach Derek Mason's decision to change the offensive and defensive systems simultaneously. Ole Miss was already going to be a tough out for the Commodores; now it's almost impossible to concoct a scenario in which Vanderbilt wins this game.
EAST CAROLINA at SOUTH CAROLINA – 6pm kickoff
East Carolina has a fairly tough program and opened with an impressive win over N.C. Central in Week 1, but the Pirates have had issues on defense the past couple of years and Steve Spurrier will be looking for someone to take out frustrations upon. I think this one ends up being a shoot-out and will have South Carolina pulling out the "W".
SAN JOSE STATE at AUBURN – 6pm kickoff
San Jose State has made great strides and opened the season with a convincing win over North Dakota. But the Spartans are highly unlikely to get by an Auburn team that, once again, has a powerful offense and very little defense to speak of. Expect this game to get out of hand with Auburn pulling most if its starters by halftime.
LAMAR at TEXAS A&M – 6:30pm kickoff
Whoa Nelly! I think Lamar is already down 30 points. Aggies QB Kenny Hill will get a chance to pad his stats and become a front runner for the Heisman. Let's hope all those high-dollar renovations to Kyle Field included triple-digit scoreboards.
SAM HOUSTON STATE at LSU – 6:30pm kickoff
LSU got off to a slow start against Wisconsin but took control of the game late. The Tigers will have no such problems dispatching of Sam Houston State. This very well could be freshman running back Leonard Fournette's first 100 yard rushing game. It should be an offensive display for the Bayou Bengals fans in LSU's home opener.
The Saints season begins in their home away from home, the Georgia Dome. That's right, you heard me. The Black & Gold have owned Atlanta since coach Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees arrived in New Orleans back in 2006. In the 8 games played in the ATL, the Saints have won 6 of them. The games are typically close, though, and even though the Dirty Birds are trying to find their toughness, as seen on Hard Knocks, they should not be considered pushovers.
Atlanta comes into the 2014 season looking to bounce back from last year's 4-12 record that caused them to finish tied with the Buccaneers for the worst record in the NFC South. Injuries plagued the team, wreaking havoc on top talents Julio Jones, Roddy White, Steven Jackson, Sean Weatherspoon, Sam Baker and Kroy Bierman. That trend has spilled over into this season, as Baker and Weatherspoon have already been shelved for the year, Jones is still recovering from a foot injury and Jackson is dealing with a hamstring issue.
A crushing blow to the Falcons is the departure of future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. He retired from the game after the end of last year. Gonzalez was a Saints killer and will be almost impossible to replace in the in the lineup. QB Matt Ryan loses his trusted security blanket.
The team did address some issues up front, signing big defensive tackle Paul Soliai and guard Jon Asamoah. Atlanta also used their 1st round draft pick on tackle Jake Mathews out of Texas A&M. Clearly, protecting their signal caller is a top priority, as Ryan was sacked 44 times last year, which was 3rd most in the NFL. Look for the Saints D to challenge the rookie Mathews early and often.
The Falcons defense needs to do a better job as well, as they finished ranked 27th overall in the NFL. Along with adding Soliai, the team also beefed up by bringing in defensive end Tyson Jackson. The D-line gave up a whopping 135.8 rushing yards per contest last year and like the Saints, the secondary struggled to create turnovers, tallying just 10 interceptions.
While I do think the Dirty Birds will be better this season, they just don't have enough to make a legitimate run at the division crown. I think the Falcons can certainly "Rise Up" and achieve an 8-8 season, but victory numero uno won't be coming this Sunday.
Galette inked a three-year, $6.3 million contract ahead of last season before breaking out for 12 sacks, but if he does meet certain goals in that deal he is able to void the final year of the contract.
Meanwhile, still no word on a place kicker of yet. I would imagine someone would be signed today as the Saints are back on the practice field tomorrow as they get ready for the season opener Sunday in Atlanta.